Free school books must cover all pupils
- Secondary school books must be included as part of Budget 2023 package
Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin has today (Monday, 26th September) demanded that the government includes secondary school pupils in a new free book scheme to be rolled out from next September as part of Budget 2023.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:
“Since I was appointed spokesperson on Education, the Labour Party has consistently called for free school books in every budget cycle. Working with others, we have made sure this vital measure is at the very top of the education agenda and it is undeniable that this is a welcome step in the right direction.
“However, the devil is always in the detail, and with this government concrete delivery is always in doubt. We have seen it in Budget 2022 with the broken promises for free GP care for 6 and 7 year olds so we will remain skeptical until free school books are guaranteed.
“The reality is free school books for all pupils could have been brought in January or June of this year and now parents will have to wait until next year to get the full benefit of this scheme. We believe that free school books must be rolled out to include secondary school pupils.
“Last summer, Labour carried out a survey which found that the average family is spending nearly €900 on back to school costs. Parents of primary school children are spending an average of €116 on books, and secondary school parents spending €279.
“All school books should simply be free. We estimate the annual cost of this would be €85 million across our entire school system. We have an opportunity in Budget 2023 to provide this for families and make a real impact. Hard working parents can’t cut back any more. Families are struggling and they need a break and assurance that this government will give their child every opportunity to thrive, regardless of their economic circumstances.
“We want a fair start for every child, and Labour will make education truly free for parents starting with books, clothes and meals, and improved school transport. We would ban voluntary contributions and increase capitation grants for schools. By making the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance universal it would reduce overall costs for all parents. At present it supports 220,000 children but there are nearly 950,000 pupils in our school system.
“As part of Labour’s alternative budget published last week we cost free school books at primary and secondary level at €85m a year. Small change in the context of the billions being spent but would go a long way to alleviate hardship and build an Ireland that works for all.”